Christopher Whiteside MBE is Conservative County Councillor for the Egremont North and St Bees Division of Cumbria County Council. The division includes St Bees, Bigrigg, Wood End, Moor Row, part of the Mirehouse area of Whitehaven, and surrounding countryside.
He is also Chairman of the North-West region of the voluntary wing of the Conservative party.
Chris lives and works in Copeland with his wife and family.
Tuesday, June 15, 2021
The route out of lockdown
Yesterday the Prime Minister announced the decision to pause step four of the Roadmap out of lockdown by four weeks, giving our NHS time to accelerate our vaccine programme and save lives.
When the government set out on the roadmap to freedom a few months ago, they made clear that they would be driven by data not dates, and that they are determined to make progress that was cautious but irreversible.
Step by step – thanks to the enormous efforts of the British people and the spectacular vaccine roll-out we now have one of the most open economies and societies in this part of the world.
And while vaccinations greatly reduces transmission – and two doses provide a very high degree of protection against serious illness and death – there are still millions of adults who have not been fully vaccinated.
And that is why the Delta variant is such a cause for concern: it is now spreading faster than the third wave predicted in the February roadmap – seeing cases grow by 64 per cent per week.
Since Britain is not meeting all four tests for proceeding with step four of the roadmap, it is unfortunately necessary to right to delay taking Step 4 until 19 July to give our NHS a few more crucial weeks to get those remaining jabs into the arms of those who need them and complete the cautious but irreversible roadmap to freedom.
The target is that by the 19 July all adults will have been offered their first dose of the vaccine with around two thirds fully vaccinated.
However, whilst the government does not believe it is safe feel to take the full step we all wanted, the ongoing success of our vaccine rollout means we can take some more cautious steps – including removing the 30 person limit on weddings and wakes, removing the requirement for care home residents to isolate for 14 days after visits out, and allowing major sporting events – including the final four UEFA Euro 2020 matches at Wembley and the Wimbledon Tennis Championships to go ahead with greater capacities.
This wasn't an easy decision to take and there is no way that everyone could have been pleased. There are those who seem to think we should be social distancing and wearing masks for ever, and others who would have scrapped all lockdown measures months ago and almost any policy the government could have adopted would have been seen as dangerous by one of those groups and too restrictive by the other.
Now is the time to ease off the accelerator because by being cautious now we have the chance – in the next four weeks – to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions more people.